Saariaho: Six Japanese Gardens; Lonh; NoaNoa; Près

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COMPOSERS: Saariaho
LABELS: Naïve Montaigne
WORKS: Six Japanese Gardens; Lonh; NoaNoa; Près
PERFORMER: Dawn Upshaw (soprano), Anssi Karttunen (cello), Camilla Hoitenga (flute), Florent Jodelet (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: MO 782087
Kaija Saariaho winningly confirms her distinguished originality as a composer with these pieces for soloists and electronics. In each case, her exploration of the solo instrument’s expressive potential and the enrichments provided by the electronics create a powerful and dramatic soundscape. The interactive CD-ROM is an added bonus.

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In Lonh, the enchantingly atmospheric electroacoustical environment within which Dawn Upshaw articulates her hypnotically atmospheric whispering and her luxuriant soprano vocalise vividly captures the distant fragrance of the Middle Ages. The more abstract opportunities in Près, meanwhile, create a space that enables dramatically exciting possibilities for development. Anssi Karttunen (for whom this piece was written) gives an outstanding performance that reaches to the very extremes of cello technique. NoaNoa (the Tahitian word for ‘odour’) offers comparable physical demands for the flautist, and Camilla Hoitenga achieves a delightfully fragrant harmony between her instrument and the electronics.

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Finally, Florent Jodelet gives a hypnotically eloquent rendering of the Six Japanese Gardens. From the opening movement’s soothing regular pulse to the lively flickering ‘Dry Mountain Stream’ and the splattering surface of the ‘Rock Garden of Ryoan-Ji’ to the ultimate textural evaporation in ‘Stone Bridges’, Jodelet aptly communicates the calming meditative serenity that defines these pieces’ inner strength. Nicholas Rast